Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Difficulty of Taking a Break

In our Risking Connection© training, we emphasize the importance of vicarious traumatization (VT). Because VT can destroy our hope and optimism, and because hope and optimism are so crucial to our work, paying attention to VT is an ethical imperative. One aspect of the discussion is: what can we do at work to decrease VT? There are many answers, and one is: take breaks.

I have recently been experimenting with actually trying to take a break for lunch. Instead of eating while I do email, write or talk, I am trying to sit and eat my lunch. I brought in a placemat and a nice bowl, and I sit away from my desk. And what I have discovered is that this is extraordinarily difficult.

Some of the difficulties are within me. I am jumpy and want to keep working. I am thinking about what I have to do. I am responsive to all interruptions. I am interested in what I am doing and do not want to stop. I feel guilty. This segment on NPR ( relates

the physical addiction we get to responding to our many media.

Some of the difficulties are external- people want to talk, meetings are scheduled at noon, there are many things to be done. We have an “always available” culture.

When I do manage to take a break, I feel refreshed and calmer. I am more thoughtful in my work.

But it is hard.

Now I am on vacation- and for me, it is also difficult to tear myself away for the vacation. It isn’t that any one is pressuring me. It is more that I love my work, find what I am doing very interesting, and I am involved in some exciting initiatives right now. I do not want to miss anything! And yet I know the value of taking some time to turn my mind in other directions, relax and absorb some of this beautiful sunshine.

How about you? Do you take breaks during the work day? Is it difficult? If you have found good ways to do so, share them! Do you find it makes a difference? Click on “comment” and share your experiences.

1 comment:

Jeremy Hulley said...

I've been pretty bad historically about lunch breaks. I have worked mostly in samller agencies where folks ate lunch at their desks.

We have gotten into the habit as staff of getting a mid afternoon coffee toghether and that seems to have helped.